How Bad Off Is Vista?

A consumer electronics magazine’s Web site is making the stunning allegation that Microsoft has to rewrite some 60 percent of Vista code before this puppy is ready for prime time, and that the key problems center around Media Centre (the publication is from Australia, mate), which explains why the corporate versions are still on track for this year while consumer revs are pushed to early next year.

The magazine also claims that the recent Windows business unit reorg is due to Microsoft scrambling, desperate to right the listing Vista ship. That may be, but my sense is that the Windows group needed a little spit and polish in preparation for the retirement of Jim Allchin next year. And Vista beta testers and upcoming Vista book authors haven’t been sounding any huge alarms, though they are clear that a lot of work needs to be done over the course of the spring, summer and fall.

Are you beta testing Vista? Is it in a world of hurt or a world of glory? Write me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

Speaking of the Windows Reorg
Microsoft shook up its Windows unit, giving more power to Steven Sinofsky, who formerly ran the Office team. It seems the real deal here is that Sinofsky was given this power in last September’s reorg. The news is that Sinofsky is gaining many of Jim Allchin’s direct reports earlier than originally planned.

Speaking of Product Delays
Sinofsky’s former baby Office has hit a speed bump, as the consumer version of Office 2007 will actually ship in 2007 to match the release of the general consumer versions of Vista. This is a big yawner. As much as consumers might want to put some new Vista PCs through their paces, I don’t see a huge, pent-up demand to spend hundreds of dollars for a new spreadsheet and word processor. Besides, it’ll take a while to figure out how to run Vista. Learning Office 2007 at the same time is guaranteed to make your head explode.

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If Vista Loses, Who Wins?
Many folks think XP is a solid, workman-like OS and that Vista delays are no big whoop. In fact, the smarter IT folks don’t plan a move to Vista until Service Pack 1 is out and thoroughly tested. But let’s face it: XP is a bit long in the tooth and more than a bit boring, despite all the jazzy TV commercials. In fact, when my teenage daughter asked for a new laptop, I tried to get her to wait for Vista and muddle along with her 3-year-old, spyware-ridden Toshiba (yeah, putting off spending a grand may have also been a factor). So how many dads will postpone their kids’ PCs until Vista makes it over the software horizon, while much of the Windows momentum will be lost? It could be a tough holiday for Microsoft (don’t forget that Xbox 360 will have to face Sony’s PlayStation 3 and maybe a new box from Nintendo).

Microsoft could do clever things, but it could also set precedents the company will have to live with for years. Here are some ideas from a total marketing amateur:

  • Microsoft could work with OEMs to ship Vista-ready PCs and offer a free Vista upgrade.
  • Given the Media Center focus of consumer Vista, Microsoft could do some aggressive tie-ins with widescreen, flat-panel, cable-ready plasma HDTV makers.
  • Microsoft could drink from its own well and bundle a free Xbox 360 with Vista-ready PCs. This is great for Xbox game sales but pretty rough on the old Xbox P&L.
  • The only other thing that could save a Windows holiday season are super low-priced machines in large supply -- $300 laptops could do the trick.

In the meantime, expect Apple to try and steal some Vista dollars with hot new iPods and hopefully some cool Macs that we don’t have to drive 100 miles to buy.

What would you do to save the Vista Christmas? Write me at dbarney@redmondmag.com.

For more on who will rule this holiday season, click here.

About the Author

Doug Barney is editor in chief of Redmond magazine and the VP, editorial director of Redmond Media Group.

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